Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Underwater Microscope Helps Prevent Shellfish Poisoning Along Gulf Coast of Texas

14.04.2008
Novel instrument developed at WHOI detects harmful algae in coastal waters

Through the use of an automated, underwater cell analyzer developed at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), researchers and coastal managers were recently able to detect a bloom of harmful marine algae in the Gulf of Mexico and prevent human consumption of tainted shellfish.

Shellfish beds in parts of Texas have been closed for a month, though they are expected to re-open in the next few days.

Working with Rob Olson and Heidi Sosik—plankton biologists and instrument developers at WHOI—biological oceanographer Lisa Campbell of Texas A&M University used their “Imaging FlowCytobot” instrument to detect a substantial increase in the abundance of the algae Dinophysis acuminata in the waters of Port Aransas, Texas.

Dinophysis acuminata produces okadaic acid, a toxin that accumulates in shellfish tissues and can cause diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP) in humans. DSP is not life-threatening, but symptoms include nausea, cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea. Cooking does not destroy the toxin in the shellfish.

The Imaging FlowCytobot, which is automated and submersible, counts microscopic plants in the water and photographs them. The images and data are relayed back to a shore-based laboratory, where specially developed software automatically classifies the plankton into taxonomic groups.

“It is very satisfying to find that a technology we developed as a research tool can be so effective for protecting human health,” said Olson, who has worked with Sosik for several years to prototype and modify flow cytometers, which are more typically used in many biological and medical laboratories.

“We designed the Imaging FlowCytobot for continuous monitoring of a wide range of plankton, and that turns out to be just what was needed to detect a harmful algal bloom that no one expected."

The discovery of the Dinophysis bloom came while the researchers were actually looking for something else. Campbell, Olson, Sosik, and colleagues deployed the instrument in the fall of 2007 at the University of Texas Marine Sciences Institute laboratory in the Mission Bay Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Their principal goal was to observe Karenia brevis, another toxic alga that blooms periodically in the Gulf and can lead to neurotoxic shellfish poisoning. The research team would like to observe the next K. brevis bloom before it happens; such blooms are most common and most extreme in the Gulf of Mexico in the late summer and fall.

The team is also working to catalog the types and relative abundances of marine plants in the area throughout the year.

In mid-February 2008, Campbell reviewed plankton images collected by the Imaging FlowCytobot and detected a substantial increase in the abundance of the dinoflagellate Dinophysis, which occurs naturally in ocean waters worldwide but not usually in harmful quantities.

“We have never before observed a bloom of Dinophysis acuminata at such levels in the Gulf of Mexico,” Campbell said.

After reporting the increase to fellow researchers in coastal Texas, Campbell and colleagues collected water samples to confirm that algal toxins were present in the water.

Other researchers collected oyster samples and sent them for toxin analysis at a U.S. Food and Drug Administration laboratory.

On March 8, the Texas Department of State Health Services closed Aransas, Corpus Christi, and Copano bays to shellfish harvesting and recalled Texas oysters, clams, and mussels that had been sold between March 1-7.

A week later, six other bays and estuaries along the coast were closed. As of April 11, most shellfishing areas had been re-opened, and the Aransas, Copano, and Corpus Christi were expected to re-open in a matter of days.

The bloom and subsequent warnings occurred just days before the Fulton Oysterfest, a major shellfish festival in the region. At last report, no shellfish-related human illnesses have been reported in Texas this spring.

“This is exactly what an early warning system should be,” said Campbell. “It should detect a bloom before people get sick. So often, we don’t figure out that there is a bloom until people are ill, which is too late. The Imaging FlowCytobot has proven itself effective for providing an early warning.”

“With time, we have come to see that the instrument has obvious practical uses,” added Sosik. “It now appears ready to make the transition from basic research tool to operative tool."

Funding for Campbell’s monitoring program and construction of the instrument was provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology (CICEET).

Funding for instrument development and earlier prototypes of the FlowCytobot and the Imaging Flow Cytobot was provided by WHOI—through its Ocean Life Institute, Coastal Ocean Institute, Bigelow Chair, and Access to the Sea Fund—and by the National Science Foundation.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, independent organization in Falmouth, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the oceans and their interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the oceans' role in the changing global environment.

Media Relations | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.whoi.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling of PET Bottles: New Ideas for Resource Cycles in Germany
25.06.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Betriebsfestigkeit und Systemzuverlässigkeit LBF

nachricht Dry landscapes can increase disease transmission
20.06.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Machine-learning predicted a superhard and high-energy-density tungsten nitride

18.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts

18.07.2018 | Life Sciences

Why might reading make myopic?

18.07.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>